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Published: May 18, 2022 3 min read
Photo collage illustration of a person shopping for groceries with a giant credit card for a head
Money; Getty Images

Forget chip cards or swiping — you may soon be able to make purchases using just your face.

This week, Mastercard launched a new pilot program that will let cardholders check out at stores using biometric information. Consumers can enroll in the program by scanning their face in an app or at a participating store, Mastercard said in a Tuesday press release.

Once enrolled, biometric information is linked to a credit card. Customers can then pay in-store by waving their hand over a reader or simply looking at a camera, the same way that you can use your face to unlock a smartphone.

The program takes mobile pay applications like Apple Pay one step further. Payment is quick and easy, Mastercard says, and you don’t need any kind of card, device or PIN number to approve the transaction. Some of Amazon’s brick-and-mortar locations are already using a form of contactless payment technology that automatically charges shoppers’ accounts when they leave the store — no checkout line required.

The entire contactless payment market is expected to be worth more than $18 billion by 2026, according to KBV Research.

For now, Mastercard's new technology is being tested at five supermarkets in Brazil. Mastercard will soon expand the pilot programs to the Middle East and Asia and has plans to roll out the service across the globe, according to its press release.

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Is biometric payment secure?

New innovations in contactless payments are often met with criticism from data privacy advocates. Last fall, for instance, a group of senators expressed concern about how Amazon was using and storing palm print data from customers.

Mastercard’s new biometric checkout program will offer payment choices to consumers alone with “the highest levels of security,” Ajay Bhalla, the company’s president of cyber and intelligence, said in a statement. Mastercard says the program includes a new set of security and data privacy standards that banks, merchants and technology providers must follow.

Many shoppers are understandably cautious about biometrics. A recent survey from GetApp, a software recommendation company for small businesses, found that the biggest concern among consumers related to biometric data was security breaches (cited by 69% of respondents). But despite their worries, consumers are also getting used to the technology: comfort levels around using facial recognition for retail transactions grew by 81% during the pandemic, GetApp found.

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